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You’ve finally decided: 2023 is the year to take the Alaska cruise you’ve been dreaming of – whether it’s been a few years or a lifetime of waiting. One of the most exciting prospects when booking an Alaska cruise is choosing your Alaska cruise excursions in each port. These ports are where you can experience the real Alaska – if you know which excursions to choose, that is.
Icy Strait Point, sometimes called Hoonah after the native people who live in this area and run the cruise port, is one popular stop on Alaska cruises… but it can be hard to decipher the marketing language to know which excursions will be worth your time – and money.
If you’re struggling to choose between Icy Strait Point shore excursions, I’m here to help. I spent three summers working for one of the major cruise companies, and during that time I had to make recommendations for excursions for thousands of Alaska cruisers. So I decided to use that knowledge to come up with a list of the best Icy Strait Point excursions.
In years past, I used to call out Icy Strait Point as the gateway to Glacier Bay National Park; this year, my research showed that the major cruise companies seem to be visiting Glacier Bay as part of their itineraries and there are no excursions that take you into the park anymore. (One of my past favorites was a flightseeing tour!) Instead, use your day in port at Ice Strait Point or Hoonah to experience the unique slice of Alaskan life you can only find in this native-owned and operated purpose-built cruise port.
I put these Icy Strait Point cruise excursions in order based on what I know Alaska visitors will love. I also keep in mind some of the other tips on choosing Alaska cruise excursions I’ve previously shared. For each excursion, I list which cruise companies offer that one – so you can see whether your cruise is on the list. Read on for the best Icy Strait Point excursions for your upcoming Alaska cruise.
In this post, I promote travel to a national park that is the Lingít Aaní (traditional lands) of the Huna (Hoonah) Tlingit people. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the people who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
This post was originally published in March 2020, and was updated most recently in November 2022 for the coming season.
The Best Icy Strait Point Cruise Excursions
Given how many cruise companies offer a number of interesting and unique shore excursions in Icy Strait Point, it was hard to choose which ones to recommend. But, I’ve weighed the options and consider these nine to be the best Icy Strait Point and Hoonah cruise excursions. Here’s how I calculated the scores:
- I went through all of the Icy Strait Point excursions and chose the ones I think are worth doing (the V factor 😂)
- I looked at the number of cruise companies offering that excursion in 2022.
- I force-ranked the excursions by uniqueness. (That means each excursion gets its own number, no ties)
- I gave each excursion a boost or deduction for being a good value based on the “Money-to-Time” Math.
- Finally, I added up the metrics to come up with a final score.
- To break ties, I used top Uniqueness score, since I want to encourage you to try new things in Alaska!
Based on all that, here’s my list of the best Icy Strait Point excursions:
|Tour Name||# of Cruises|
|1||In Alaska’s Wildest Kitchen||10||+1|
|2||Spasski River Valley Wildlife & Bear Search||10||+1|
|4||Hoonah Sightseeing & Tribal Dance||4||-3|
|5||Bike, Hike & Beach||6||New!|
|6||Discovering Birds of Hoonah||7||+1|
|7||Adventure Park & ZipRider Combo||5||+2|
|8||Chichagof Island Wilderness Hike||1||-3|
|9||Heli, Bike & Hike Adventure||1||-1|
While not everyone will agree with this list – and it wasn’t the original list I wrote back for the 2020 season (ha!). But I feel confident that this list is both impartial but also informed by my expert advice. Now let’s dive into each one!
1. In Alaska’s Wildest Kitchen
Who Offers This Shore Excursion in Icy Strait Point? Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, Regent, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, and Viking.
Foodie cruisers, this one’s for you! I try to include a food tour in every one of the posts in this series; I believe food is one of the best ways to experience the culture of a place – including Alaska. Since I already pointed out that Icy Strait Point is a unique cultural destination, what better way to experience it than on a cooking class excursion?
On this excursion, you’ll sample some of the food Alaskans love to enjoy, learn from a local chef about how to filet and prepare fresh Alaskan seafood, and then try your hand at preparing some for yourself. As a souvenir, you’ll get recipe cards so you can try to prepare these meals once you return home.
2. Spasski River Valley Wildlife & Bear Search
Who Offers This Icy Strait Point Shore Excursion? Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, Regent, Royal Caribbean, Seabourn, and Viking.
Wildlife is one of the main draws for visitors who want to cruise in Alaska. Unfortunately, the biggest ships have a tendency to scare off a lot of the wildlife you hope to see. To increase your chances, you need to get off the big boat, get on two feet, and get out in the Alaska wild. While this cruise excursion isn’t totally unique – you can see bears elsewhere in Alaska – it’s a good chance to guarantee that experience at a good value.
This excursion is a gentle walking tour that lasts 2.5 to 3 hours depending on the wildlife you see. After a short bus ride to the Spasski River Valley, you’ll take a guided tour along a boardwalk and gravel path into a habitat that Alaskan brown bears are known to frequent. There’s no guarantee, of course, but that’s part of what makes the excursion an adventure! You can potentially also see bald eagles, Sitka black-tailed deer, and otters.
3. Halibut Fishing
Who Offers This Icy Strait Point Shore Excursion? Celebrity, Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, Regent, Royal Caribbean, and Seabourn.
I get a lot of questions about fishing in Alaska. So, when I see a good Alaska cruise excursion for fishing, I recommend it! Typically, I recommend halibut fishing charters in Seward, but if your itinerary doesn’t allow that, here’s an alternative. This Icy Strait Point excursion is a good value and widely offered, which is why it ranks so highly on my list for 2023 Alaska cruises.
On this 3.5-hour charter, you’ll board a locally-operated boat and head out onto the waters of Icy Strait. Purchase your fishing license, put your line in, and hope for good fishermen’s luck! If you do have the fortune to hook a halibut, the boat company will ship it home to you.
4. Hoonah Sightseeing & Tribal Dance
Who Offers This Icy Strait Point Cruise Excursion? Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, and Seabourn.
When comparing all of the Alaska cruise excursions in Icy Strait Point, there’s one that stands out as truly special: the Hoonah Sightseeing and Tribal Dance offering that almost every cruise company provides. Icy Strait Point is owned by the Hoonah Tlingit tribe, so this is a chance to learn about the culture and lifestyle of the locals who are hosting you on their land.
Unfortunately, this excursion isn’t offered by as many cruise companies as others above it on the list – so it ended up falling a few spots on my list for 2023. That said, it’s the one I would do in Icy Strait Point, so take that as an extra point in its favor.
This excursion doesn’t have the same wow factor as flightseeing or adrenaline-inducing zip-lining, it’s by far the most culturally immersive experience you can have in Icy Strait Point – and possibly on your whole Alaska trip.
5. Bike, Hike & Beach
Who Offers This Shore Excursion in Icy Strait Point? Celebrity, Disney, Norwegian, Oceania, Regent, and Royal Caribbean.
If you’ve read any of my other lists of cruise excursions, you know that getting active is one of my personal travel priorities. While that doesn’t necessarily factor into the way this list is ranked, it means I always include 1-2 Alaska cruise excursions that are more active for those who are physically able.
In Icy Strait Point, this new excursion – which includes both biking and hiking before beachcombing – does the trick. While biking and hiking in Alaska’s temperate rainforest is certainly cool, hands down the best part is exploring the beach in this trio of experiences; keep your eyes peeled for sea urchin shells and animal prints, which are commonly found on the beaches of Southeast Alaska.
6. Discovering Birds of Hoonah
Who Offers This Shore Excursion in Icy Strait Point? Disney, Holland America, Norwegian, Oceania, Princess, Regent, and Royal Caribbean.
This Alaska cruise excursion might not be for everyone, but if you love wildlife (and especially birding) this widely-offered excursion might be the one for you in Icy Strait Point.
On this cruise excursion, a local guide will take you out to spot dozens of species of perching birds, seabirds, ducks, gulls, and bald eagles. You’ll be provided with binoculars and other gear you might need. And best of all: the proceeds of this excursion support the Juneau Audubon Society, so your excursion costs are funneled back into supporting the bird populations you get to enjoy.
7. Adventure Park & ZipRider Combo
Who Offers This Shore Excursion in Icy Strait Point? Celebrity, Holland America, Norwegian, Princess, and Royal Caribbean.
Zip-lining is so in right now! I mean, you can zip-line in many ports around the world, so is it any surprise that there’s an epic zip-lining experience in Alaska? Or that it’s the largest in the world – kind of like Alaska is the largest state?
That said, it’s not exactly unique to encounter these kinds of excursions, so it doesn’t rank particularly high on my personal list of the best Icy Strait Point cruise excursions. (It is semi-widely available and a good value though, as points in its favor.)
This is a 90-minute excursion that includes an obstacle course – dubbed the ‘Adventure Park,’ – made up of a log bridge, climbing planks, fishermen’s net, and more. After you successfully conquer that, you’ll hook into the first of six zip lines. You’ll descend from an elevation of 1,330 feet back to sea level along those six zips – at times you may be going as fast as 60 miles per hour and at heights of 300 feet above the ground!
(This Icy Strait Point excursion is not for those who are faint of heart or afraid of heights!)
8. Chichagof Island Wilderness Hike
Who Offers This Icy Strait Point Cruise Excursion? Only Holland America offers this one.
Alaska is full of epic hikes, and you might want to experience some of that for yourself on your Alaska cruise. The Chichagof Island wilderness hike excursion is a good opportunity. After a drive through (and out of) town, you’ll leave the crowds behind and head onto Alaska native-owned lands where you’ll disembark and start your wilderness hike. The trail is a moderate 2-mile hike that includes panoramic views of Chichagof Island and the surrounding waterways.
If you love the idea of stretching your legs a bit more than you can on the boat, this is a great excursion – it only ranks low on the list because of few companies (okay, one) offering it in 2023.
9. Heli, Bike & Hike Adventure
Who Offers This Icy Strait Point Shore Excursion? Only Seabourn offers this one.
Despite it being last on the list, I personally love this excursion as it offers the opportunity to both get up in the air and burn off some of those ship calories you’ve been consuming (yes, they count!). Unfortunately, only one cruise company offers it which handicapped it in the rankings for 2023.
On this 2- to 3-hour excursion, you’ll board a helicopter, cruise up to the top of the mountain, unload your bikes, and ride back down. Along the way, most guides stop to take you on short hikes for even better views. It’ll be hard to keep your eyes on the trail with all the epic scenery around you!
Which of these Icy Strait Point excursions will you book? If you have questions or comments, let me know below or join me in my Alaska Travel Tips Facebook Community!
Keep Planning Your Alaska Cruise!
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Photo credits: Icy Strait Point building (L) – Moira Dunworth; Glacier Bay flightseeing (R) – Joseph; salmon on grill – Didriks; Tlingit tribal dance – James Brooks; halibut fisherman – Bryan Wilkins; all via Flickr